Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Koneshwari, "I must have survived for a reason"

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BATTICALOA, 24 December 2009 (IRIN) - The Asian tsunami left more than 220,000 people dead in 13 countries, including some 35,000 in Sri Lanka. Koneshwari Sivaganeshan, 11, who lives with her grandmother in the eastern town of Batticaloa, recalls that day five years ago:

"It was a horrible experience. There was water everywhere and the waves were gigantic. Everywhere I looked, I saw people being washed away. It was a nightmare seeing the water rise so high. Some areas were hit harder by waves than others, but where I was the water level did not come up that high.

"But it was chaotic all around me. And it was hard to understand what was happening.

"My father had gone fishing towards Muttur [eastern Sri Lanka] the night before so I did not immediately think of him when the tsunami struck. However, I did think of my mother because I was scared.

"It was so painful when my aunt told me that my mother's body had been found. Then later that week, I was told my father was also missing.

"I waited for weeks and weeks for my father to return, but he never did. Now I think he is dead and I often wonder why I survived when my parents didn't. Sometimes I'm scared to go to sleep at night and I worry that the water might return. When the tsunami came the last time, I barely escaped.

"Today I go to school like other children and I like my studies. I am doing well in school and I hope for a better life one day. Of course, sometimes the bad memories return, but I want to forget the past and move on. That's my goal now. My relatives are very nice to me. I like them a lot. They help me to move on.

"I have a house to live in. I am thankful to God that I am alive. I must have survived for a reason."

contributor/ds/mw

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